Bhima Koregaon violence case: Gautam Navlakha refuses to pay Rs 1 crore to NIA as house arrest surveillance expenses

Gautam Navlakha, an accused in the Bhima Koregaon violence case, on Thursday alleged that the National Investigation Agency (NIA) was engaging in ‘extortion’ by demanding an excessive amount from him towards meeting his house arrest expenses.

Appearing for Navlakha in the Supreme Court, Senior Advocate Nitya Ramakrishnan had a heating exchange of words with Additional Solicitor General SV Raju, representing the national agency.

ASG Raju contended before the Bench of Justice MM Sundresh and Justice SVN Bhatti that the agency had ‘reservations’ about the November 2022 order, passed by a bench led by now-retired Justice KM Joseph, allowing Navlakha to be released from detention and placed under house arrest on grounds of his deteriorating health.

He claimed that Navlakha was now required to pay Rs one crore to meet the expenses for round-the-clock surveillance at the location where he was housebound.

Disputing the claim, Ramakrishnan argued that the Central agency’s calculation of the amount payable was wrong and contrary to the relevant rules.

She further apprised the Bench that a deposit of Rs eight lakh had already been made by Navlakha towards surveillance and security expenses in terms of the court’s order in April.

The Apex Court was hearing the human rights activist’s plea for shifting his house arrest location in Mumbai, along with the NIA’s plea challenging a Bombay High Court order granting him bail in December last year.

The Bench orally observed during the hearing that such an order might set the ‘wrong precedent’.

Ramakrishnan reiterated her objections to the NIA’s monetary claim of more than Rs 1.64 crore. She pointed towards alleged inconsistencies in NIA’s demand on grounds of extant rules and regulations governing such payments.

Contesting the amount, the Counsel requested the Apex Court to hear the matter.

The law officer insisted that Navlakha must first make the payment, highlighting that he has only paid Rs 10 lakh so far.

Ramakrishnan argued that NIA cannot demand Rs one crore from citizens for keeping them in custody.

The ASG responded that the citizens were not entitled to house arrest. Besides, Navlakha had agreed to make the payment.

Ramakrishnan accused the agency of ‘extortion,’ stating that there was an upper limit. There cannot be extortion.

The ASG objected to the use of the term ‘extortion’, denying any such actions by the agency.

As the arguments between the Counsels of Navlakha and NIA escalated, the top court of the country observed that the dispute over the amount claimed by the National Investigation Agency would have to be adjudicated in a proper hearing.

The Bench directed the matter to be adjourned to a non-miscellaneous day in April, adding that the stay on the Bombay High Court’s bail order will continue until then.

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